Monday, December 29, 2008
No snow this Christmas, as it was in the low 50s Christmas Eve. But regardless, Christmas Eve and morning were wonderful, with the boys' excitement reaching a fever pitch just as we were preparing for Santa to visit us.
As R said when he woke up Christmas morning, "I think I heard reindeer last night on our roof!"
I replied, "you did!?"
R: "Yes, but I only heard Dasher and Rudolph. I didn't hear any of the other reindeer."
Here are some quick pictures:
R was a bit disappointed (and concerned about Santa's sleigh riding without the snow) that we didn't have a White Christmas, but if you can't have snow, how about record high temperatures a couple days after Christmas in the high 60s?
Yeah, I decided that "go-outside-and-play-with-no-coats" weather trumps a white week.
Hope your holiday has been Merry,
Monday, December 22, 2008
Betcha can't guess which cookies R and G decorated above?
As I was plating up cookies, I realized this plate could be entitled, "The SP family on a plate."
The meals this week will be easy and simple...except Christmas of course. This year we're staying home for Christmas, just the 4 of us.
What are your plans this year?
Not sure how many posts will make their way to SP&P in the next week, so in case you don't hear from me before Thursday,
Friday, December 19, 2008
So when the day is (almost) done, and SPH is upstairs giving R and G their baths, I take a little time to give my hands a little moisture therapy. I've tried everything from Vaseline Intensive Care, pure Cocoa Butter, L'Occitane, Aveda, and just about anything else out there.
I slather (is that even a word?) some of this on my hands, whip on my dishwashing gloves and start working on the dishes. The warm water helps soothe my hands as this lotion does its magic.
It's the little things...
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The science of perfect oven roasted potatoes:
1. The potato: I use plain old russet.
2. The oven: 425 degrees...not too hot, but hot enough to give you a good crust.
3. The pan (this is key): Put the pan into the oven, by itself, while the oven is preheating, and allow it 5-10 minutes at 425 before you put the potatoes on it. Then, when you put the potatoes on the pan, they will instantly begin to lightly brown/crisp the bottoms of the potatoes, given you really nice crunch, followed by a soft interior.
4. The oil: Extra virgin olive oil, about 2 tablespoons per 5-6 potatoes. Less and they don't get a good brown, more and they are too greasy
5. The seasoning: Plain 'ole salt and pepper works great, but if you are going to add herbs, please use fresh. Dried herbs have a tendency to burn at this high roasting temperature.
Perfect Oven Roasted Potatoes
5-6 Russet potatoes, unpeeled and cubed into small bite size pieces
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 T fresh rosemary, minced.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place cookie sheet in the oven to heat. Mix all the other ingredients, stirring well to combine. After the cookie sheet has been in the oven for 10 minutes or so, carefully pour the potatoes onto the cookie sheet.
Roast for 15-18 minutes, then take a spatula, flip the potatoes and roast for another 15-20 minutes.
These beauties go so well with any holiday or any-time-of-the-year meal!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
got a haircut for G's mane:
and had a date night out, just SPH and I, to stay sane.
Can you tell I just watched a World Word show that included lots of rhyming? (BTW, am I the only one who thinks that "Duck" from World Word sounds remarkably similar a Bill Clinton impersonator?)
Then this morning was our annual MOPS Christmas Brunch, which was preceded last night by a MOPS leadership ladies' night out to Figlio.
Throw in the normal activity of our home, a double ear infection and perforated ear drum for R and some Christmas Cookie making and delivering, and you pretty much have summed up our weekend/Monday.
Our meals for the week:
Grilled Chicken Brats, Sauerkrat, German Potato Salad, Green Beans
Pasta Carbonara, Butter Beans
Cheddar Crab and Broccoli Soup
Hope your week is sweet,
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Is it me or has it suddenly become hip to create homemade Christmas gifts year?
A few years ago if you said you were making your gifts it would conjure up one of two images:
A. A Martha Stewart type that can create homemade baked goods, packages in a homemade box created from some wood pulp harvested from an organic pine tree that you grew from seed –OR--
B. A preschool style gift, such as a jewelry box with glued uncooked pasta on top and spray painted gold.
But this year, well, even Oprah is getting in the spirit of homemade gift giving. It is *the* thing to do, so get ready for some posts featuring my favorite gifts from the kitchen. I found a recipe for homemade caramel corn on one of my favorite blogs, Rookie Cookie.
This recipe is Whitney of Rookie Cookie’s recipe, just altered a bit to add nuts and more popcorn. You make it all in the microwave and clean up is easy peasy because you do the mixing in a clean brown paper bag.
I actually have decided to stop making this for a bit because I was eating just as much as I was able to give away for gifts. It is quite possibly the most addictive thing I have ever created in my kitchen. You know Cracker Jack? I nicknamed this concoction Cracker Crack.
Sweeten someone’s holiday with this amazing treat.
Rookie Cookie’s Caramel Corn
10 cups of popped popcorn*
1 cup of dry roasted peanuts
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Mix popcorn and peanuts in a clean brown paper grocery bag. In a large (4 cups is a good size) glass pyrex measuring cup, melt the butter in the microwave. Once melted, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir well. Microwave for 2 minutes and then add the baking soda (mixture will be foamy).
Stir well and then pour over the popcorn and peanuts. Mix well and close the bag, shaking to ensure complete mixing. Microwave the bag on high for 1 minute and pour out onto some wax paper to cool.
(I cannot for the life of me find my "finished product" picture...check out the one on Rookie Cookie instead)
Break into chunks and try, try, try not to eat it.
*Need an easy, all natural way to make popcorn? Try this homemade microwave popcorn trick.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Wrap the Presents
Buy Stocking Stuffers
Deliver Gifts to Neighbors
Mail the Christmas Cards
Appetizer for Christmas Party
Since my list didn't seem quite long enough, I decided to add one more item:
Blog for familyeducation.com
I am thrilled to expand to a second helping of the Sweet Pea Chef with a new stint on Familyeducation.com's blog page. If you haven't checked out familyeducation.com, it is a fantastic site for all sorts of parenting information.
I'll still be keeping up with SP&P too, so we'll see how this all shakes out...sure to be a full plate of blogging, so I need to figure out how to divvy up my time and recipes. But, now if you excuse me, I am going to go work on the other parts of my Christmas list...
Assemble Big Wheel for G
Figure out Christmas Morning Menu
Make New Year's Eve Reservation
Put together "soup mix" gifts
Sunday, December 7, 2008
G's first taste of a s'more:
Then, it started snowing in earnest on Saturday...
The Sweet Peas were off Saturday morning (with about 10 million others) to the local mall's indoor play area while SPH did some Christmas shopping. When we passed the mall photo place, there were literally at least 3 dozen children under the age of 5 waiting to get their photos taken, and they all looked none too happy to be in itchy/uncomfortable/"please don't get them dirty or wrinkly" clothes, waiting, waiting, waiting to be memorialized for Christmas. The scene sent shivers up my spine as I thanked God that we already had our Christmas photos done and ordered. Thanks Shannon!
When we came out from the mall after our lunchtime feast at Chick-fil-a, there were a couple inches of snow on the ground. R was ecstatic. He immediately started asking when we were going to go sledding, which thankfully, has somehow become SPH's "thing" with R, so I was off the hook.
Saturday night was SPH and my date night. Wonderful. We went to Ha Long Bay, Vietnamese Kitchen. It was the best Vietnamese I have had since we left DC. If you live in the Columbus area, you should check it out.
Sunday we did church and afterward, while SPH and the boys were playing in the snow, he met our new neighbors that moved into the house behind us. They have a 5 year old boy! Hooray!! I am thrilled to have a new neighbor with a son R's age.
After naps, we went to Ryan's preschool to see the live Nativity. R got really excited when we got to see one of the sheep relieve himself. It's the little things really.
Our meals for the week:
Red and Green Mexican Lasagna
Freezer Dive (I recently went to a meal assembly place and will be using one of their meals)
Breakfast for Dinner
Olive Bar Fish
Have a sweet week,
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I love you. I am glad you are all about using big boy utensils and learning to do everything by. Your. Self.
I won't try and help you anymore. Your highchair meltdowns have got your point across vividly.
Mommy, aka SPC
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The green pistachios and the red cranberries make these beauties shine with Christmas glee.
Whip some up, wrap them up and make someone's Christmas a bit yummier.
1 T olive oil
1 T vegetable oil
2 T brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/3 c dried cranberries
1/2 c roasted and unsalted pistachio nuts (if using regular nuts, omit the salt)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Mixing by hand, mix the oils and sugars, then add vanilla and egg until well blended. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, add to the egg mixture. Last, add the pistachios and cranberries.
Form a log that is about 10 inches long by 4 inches wide like this:
Using a Silpat liner or parchment is a good idea.
Bake for 30-33 minutes, or until slightly brown like this:
Let cool for 1-2 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut into 3/4 -1 inch slices by using firm pressure and cutting down (do not try to saw).
Reduce oven to 275 degrees. Lay biscotti on sides and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown.
Christmas is sweet,
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
So we set up a taste test of SPC's family and friends. There are four types of nuts we tasted (followed by my "2 cents" summary):
Roasted, Unsalted: Very good, but best for baking* and those with sky high blood pressure, watching their sodium intake.
Roasted, Salted: Very, very good and fresh. No pesky "unopened" shells (this is an EN money-back guarantee). Tasty indeed.
Salt and Pepper: Fantastic. Oh-my-goodness good. Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner pistachio. Pistachio heaven in a shell.
English Roast: Amazing. Think pub "chips" with malt vinegar. If you are a salt and vinegar potato chip fan, these nuts will give you a good salt and vinegar fix without feeling guilty#. (Side comment to the good EN folks: you could go a *bit* heavier on the vinegar taste, in my humble opinion).
*To demonstrate how handy the unsalted nuts are for recipes, stay tuned tomorrow for a bonus pistachio recipe. Double bonus: this recipe can be used as a Christmas gift idea.
#I never realized all the good things about pistachios: they're full of fiber, antioxidants, and other good things with lower fat and calories than other nuts.
So there you have it. I'm a believer. You can take nuts from ordinary to extraordinary.
Oh, and to the good folks at EN--thanks for giving me another great Christmas gift idea.
I'm nuts for these nuts,
Monday, December 1, 2008
The whirlwind began about a week ago as a gentle breeze of meal planning, grocery shopping and preparing.
Then Friday a gust of Christmas arrived. Determined to experience picking out the Sweet Pea Family Christmas tree and some early Christmas fun while Grandma and Papa were visiting us, we squeezed a tree, some Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating and a whole happy storm of Christmas music before they left on Saturday.
So now the Sweet Peas are fully Christmas-fied and rearing to go. Let December begin.
Our meals for the week:
Chicken, er Turkey Tetrazini (and with this dish, the turkey is G-O-N-E gone!)
Indian Tofu Masala and Curried Cauliflower
Crab Cakes, with some sides (not sure yet which)
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Please go and watch the video on the home page of AdventConspiracy.org
It is short, easy to watch, non-proselytizing and gives you something of substance to chew on as we begin Advent.
No matter what you believe, I think you will enjoy it.
Let me know what you think...I'll be back to kitchen blogging tomorrow.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
R, G and I will be whipping up some good eats this afternoon. Ours is a traditional North (yours truly) meets South (SPH) Thanksgiving:
Turkey with Stuffing and Gravy
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Bread and Yeast Rolls
As for the cranberries, we mix it up a bit. A long time ago I stumbled upon this recipe for cranberry salsa. You serve it atop Melba Toast, that has been slathered with cream cheese. Heaven.
We still have the obligatory cranberry sauce, but really, each of us at the table knows, the cranberry salsa is where it's at.
Cranberry Salsa Rounds*
3 c whole fresh cranberries (1 - 12oz bag) rinsed
3 green onions, chopped
1 medium jalepeno, seeded
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c fresh cilantro
2 T fresh ginger
2 T fresh lemon or lime juice
1 box of plain melba toast rounds
1 package of plain cream cheese
*The rounds are amazing; but also try using the salsa as a condiment with your dinner or on leftover turkey sandwiches.
Rinse the cranberries and pick out any ones that are green or mushy:
Place all the ingredients in a food processor (doesn't it just look like the holidays?)
Pulse it a few times until it looks like this:
Then serve on Melba Toast rounds that have about a teaspoon of cream cheese on top. I will post photos of the salsa rounds once we whip them up tomorrow.
Already finalized your menu for tomorrow and don't want to fight the crowds to pick up the ingredients for this recipe? Then make them during the Christmas season...they look so festive you won't be able to stand it.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
If I time it right, R's quiet time will coincide with G's nap time and I will have some time to relax and put up my feet. Yeah right. Usually this time is used picking up the house, prepping dinner, tinkering in the kitchen, blogging and sometimes, rarely, lounging. Regardless of what I do though, I cherish this time alone each day. It is my renewal. It is my sanity.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I actually use this precious down time to eat lunch like I did five years ago, which seems like an exotic memory: eating lunch, sitting down, without getting up until I am done with my meal.
This recipe-free recipe is a meal for such an occasion (sad that a leisurely lunch is an occasion, huh?). I would challenge anyone to tell me that their child would eat this salad. But for an adult, it is goo-ooo-ood. It is based on a recipe from Vino Vino, an amazing little wine bar in Grandview. They have a small plate called Asparagus Bruschetta, that a waiter once urged me to order. This recipe takes the components of the recipe and creates a just-for-you-not-for-the-kids salad.
One of the things I am most thankful for this week is those "just for me" lunches and down time during the boys' down time.
Asparagus Bruschetta, Deconstructed Salad
A bowl full of baby spinach greens
Thinly sliced red onion to taste
4-5 stems of steamed asparagus, cut into one inch pieces
A handful of croutons or toasted bread cubes
1-2 slices of prosciutto (or ham or bacon) diced
A small handful of cubed white cheese (I use fontina, but choose your favorite, since this is for you!)
A drizzle of balsamic (about a teaspoon or two)
A slightly bigger drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon)
pinch of salt and pepper
Mix well in a bowl. Eat. Relax. Get crazy and maybe even put your feet up.
It's the little things that keep life sweet,
Monday, November 24, 2008
Again, in case you have short-term memory loss, "thank you."
The last time I won something I was about 9 years old. I guessed the correct amount of buttons in a jar at an antique store and won a "Paint the Town Red" mug. To this day, I have no clue why anyone would *want* to win this mug, but I did, and my very patient mother not only allowed me to enter such a fabulous contest, but then drove me back to pick up my prize. Thanks mom.
Perhaps the best part of this experience though was having so many friends and family support me through their voting and in many cases, phone calls and emails. On Thursday I realized that no matter what the outcome of the contest, the true blessing was feeling this groundswell of support.
I'll be back to my regular posting tomorrow, but for now, I am enjoying this moment--
Friday, November 21, 2008
Each year I try and plan ahead so December is actually a season of peace and calm. Some years I succeed, some, not so much. This year, I decided to make some Christmas dough and freeze it so when the mood strikes, the cookies will be halfway done.
I chose two doughs that can be premade, my #1 all-time favorite Peanut Butter Kisses and our recent favorite addition, Spicy Gingerbread (and by "spicy" I mean ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, not cayenne and hot peppers) and whipped them up when the boys were away at preschool.
Once the dough is done, I shape it into mounds:
and then freeze them in wax paper, sealed in a freezer bag:
The gingerbread is in smaller, easier to roll out batches, the peanut butter in one big hunk of ooey gooey goodness.
Which begs the question...are you a dough eater? I know, I know, we aren't supposed to eat raw dough, but I know many chronic dough snatchers...are you one?
Have a sweet weekend,
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Looks and tastes even better...
Goat Cheese and Tapenade Spread
1 - 8oz package of reduced fat cream cheese
1 - 4oz package of goat cheese (I used the pepper flavor)
1/4 - 1/2 c of prepare tapenade* (Trader Joe's if you can find it)
Let the cheeses sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to soften, or alternatively, remove from packaging and put in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds, and then stir, repeat if necessary, until cheese is soft.
Mix cheese and tapenade in a bowl. Place in the refrigerator until firm. Serve with crackers, vegetables or whatever you wish.
This recipe is going in my permanent "I need a quick, yet easy and upscale appetizer" file.
We made this for my a bridal shower recently and it was amaaaaaaazing. I used the leftovers for a sandwich the next day. Heaven.
Life is sweet,
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
If you love this blog, or love me, or love chili, or just didn't get enough of voting two weeks ago...can I ask you to vote for my Golden Chili with Carmelized Onions and Sausage?
Voting ends this Sunday, November 23rd, so get crackin'!
Is it me or are there only are two options if you decide to go for kiddie vitamins?
A. Give them the traditional ones that give a basic balance of most important nutrients, but have artificial color and sweeteners
B. Give them natural vitamins, with large RDAs (recommended daily allowances) of certain components, far above 100%.
I am hoping that I have just somehow overlooked mystery option C that is a natural vitamin with basic levels of vitamins?
Also, what do you all think about gummy vitamins? I am somewhat weary of the gummy vitamins, thinking that if I accidentally leave them on the counter in my early morning haze, R and G will eat the whole jar, a la gummy bears. (Oh, you cannot appease me by telling me they have child safety lids...R once shimmied his hand through a child cabinet "lock," only to break the child safety seal on some ACT Kid's mouth rinse and drink 1/3 of the bottle.)
I am all ears...
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
When I find a new slow cooker recipe that rocks, I get very excited. It's the little things after all...
We tried this recipe last week that I tweaked and altered from a traditional soup recipe that my aunt shared with me. It can be made with sausage or ham, or alternatively, without to make it vegetarian.
Please, do yourself a favor and try this soup!
Italian Bean and Artichoke* Soup
3 cups of dried beans (use any combination you wish) -OR- 5 - 15oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (such as canellini, lima, kidney, pinto, lentils, great northern, or navy)
1 -28oz jar of tomato marinara
1 quart broth
2 bay leaves
2 T dried minced onion
1 T dried parsley flakes
1 t dried minced garlic
1 t dried thyme leaves
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t red pepper flakes
optional: 8 ounces smoked sausage links, sliced or 8 ounces ham, diced
*optional: 1 - 15oz can of artichoke hearts, cut into quarters or smaller
If using dried beans, soak the beans to soften overnight as directed on the package.
Mix beans, marinara, broth, spices (from bay leaves through to the red pepper flakes) and sausage/ham (if using) in slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 5-6 hours. About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, add the artichoke hearts, if desired.
Serve with some big crusty bread for the perfect cold weather meal.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I *love* having fresh produce at my fingertips. Sadly though, until we move south, or we build a greenhouse like my friend Noelle's mom had growing up, I am resigned to a winter of mealy tomatoes, pepper with a waxy film and small boxes of basil that go limp after one day in the fridge.
R and G helped me pull the last of the vegetables:
and for now, I can still enjoy the mint, parsley and cilantro:
and I am letting the cilantro go to seed, so I have some fresh coriander seeds:
We have a busy week, so I foresee some meals out of premade gnocchi, perhaps some leftovers stashed in the freezer and maybe a grilled cheese and soup night.
Have a sweet week,
Friday, November 14, 2008
Since so many little ones turn their heads at anything green, here's one of our favorite easy, week night side dishes that won't automatically be rejected on the basis of its green-ness alone.
2-3 T diced onion (any type but green)
1 slice of bacon, thinly sliced (optional for all you vegetarians out there)
1 15 oz can wax beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 T water
pinch of thyme (but not too much, for fear of making the green noticeable)
In a sauce pan over medium high heat, cook the bacon and onion until they begin to brown a bit. Add the canned beans and water, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all the yummy browned bits. Add the thyme and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes.
Have a sweet weekend,
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Happy Birthday to my sweet, wonderful, supportive, understanding, loving husband...you are the reason I can blog so creatively today.
Before you I ate:
mostly chicken, and always just boneless, skinless breasts
nothing too spicy
basically, I hate to say it, typical Midwestern food
You've opened my eyes to so many culinary adventures during the past nearly 12 (!) years that I owe all my new food horizons to you!
I love you,
PS--Happy Birthday to SPH's mom too! This amazing woman helped make SPH who he is today AND she had to be in labor on her birthday. Kudos to you, I love you S.